The Forest Service and the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management have said they are delaying the June 14 sale of gas drilling leases on almost 43,000 acres of public lands in the Talladega National Forest, a proposal which has sparked widespread and vigorous opposition from local citizens and some elected officials. Following a story that broke in the Washington, the agencies issued a press statement announcing they would delay the lease sale to allow time for public engagement, including public informational meetings.
Wild South, Friends of the Talladega National Forest and concerned citizens in Alabama have collected more than 7,000 signatures over the past few weeks from people opposed to the sale of oil and gas leases in Alabama’s National Forests. The signatures were submitted to the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM with a plea to remove all Alabama lands from the lease sale.
It remains unclear when public meetings would be scheduled, or whether the BLM would re-schedule the lease sale.
On April 16, the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted a formal “letter of protest” to the BLM on behalf of Wild South and the Natural Resources Defense Council saying the agency was improperly relying on an outdated environmental analysis performed by the Forest Service in 2004. Among other deficiencies, this stale analysis fails to assess the environmental impacts of drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking.” www.SouthernEnvironment.org
Fracking is a process of pumping millions of gallons of water, toxic chemicals, and sand into a well to free up oil and gas far below ground.
Prior to the letter, local citizens and elected officials were not aware of the proposed lease sale, and had no opportunity for public comment. The Talladega National Forest is a source of clean drinking water for numerous communities, including Anniston and Jacksonville, AL. In 2009, the Forest Service estimated about 600,000 visits a year to the forest by hikers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders and others who seek out the forest’s exceptional recreational opportunities.
On May 31, SELC, on behalf of Wild South and NRDC filed a “notice of intent” to sue the two agencies under the Endangered Species Act, asserting the leasing and future drilling in the Talladega would likely harm numerous federally listed threatened and endangered species, including the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, the Indiana Bat, and several fish and mussel species.
Whistleblower Study: Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations poses a serious threat to national forests, according to a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service. Mary Beth Adams conducted a two year study of soil and vegetation health in West Virginia after more than 75,000 gallons of fracking wastewater were applied to a portion of forest set aside for research.
The study, appearing in the July- August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality, tracks the effects of fracking wastewater on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest in the Monongahela National Forest. Adams monitored the effects of the land application over a two-year period.
Within two days, the contaminated fluids had killed all ground level plant life and within 10 days began to brown the foliage of trees. Within two years all of the trees showed signs of damage and more than half of the 150 trees in the test area were dead. The study notes a dramatic 50-fold increase of sodium and chloride in surface soil after the application, but, because the chemical composition of fracking wastes is protected as proprietary information, the full contamination effects could not be studied.
Source: Desmogblog (http://s.tt/19bkd)
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional conservation organization using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC´s team of 50 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.